Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band, Royal Festival Hall, London
Billy Bragg, Patrick Jones, Blackwood Miners' Institute, Gwent

Yoko Ono is neither evil nor, sadly, an unsung genius. Billy Bragg salutes the miners, 25 years on

In the film of the Rolling Stones' 1968 Rock And Roll Circus, the summit of Sixties superpowers in which The Beatles, The Who, the Stones and Eric Clapton gathered in a television studio, there's an excruciating moment which encapsulates the Yoko Ono Problem.

A scratch band called The Dirty Mac, comprising Clapton, Keith Richards, Mitch Mitchell and John Lennon are jamming away when Lennon's fiancée wanders on stage. Ono begins caterwauling for what feels like aeons, much to the musicians' evident discomfort. No one can meet the Beatles' gaze, but their expressions say it all: we wouldn't be putting up with this nonsense if she weren't Lennon's missus.

There's been a lot of misogynist rubbish written about Yoko Ono, much of it based on the questionable idea that she was a manipulative gold-digger who single-handedly "split up" a band who couldn't stand one another. However, there's also been a tendency to proclaim her as an unsung genius. She is, of course, neither. Independently wealthy, she was a mediocre avant-garde artist with a knack for convincing people she was something more. And so it remains.

Probably the kindest thing to be said about her revived Plastic Ono Band is that she's created a space in which avant-garde things are allowed to happen, and of which she herself is the least talented component.

In trademark shades, she fronts a majority-Japanese line-up containing members of Cornelius's backing band, Yuka Honda from Cibo Matto, Mark Ronson, and her son Sean Lennon. Much of tonight's set, culled from Ono's 40-year career, amounts to a cacophony of diarrhoeic Expressionist rubbish, and film of a housefly buzzing around a naked body sums up Ono's irritant factor all too accurately. Frustratingly there's no "Walking on Thin Ice", but there is, for pity's sake, a song Sean wrote for her when he was 17. Rarely have the words "this is a song from my mom's next album" sounded so ominous, especially when followed by "... she wrote six songs that day".

Lennon introduces guest Antony Hegarty with some awkwardness ("He's a man who ... he's a woman who ..."). When she starts screeching and cackling like a chimp in a hot bath, the gentle giant regards her with kinder eyes than the musos did back in 1968.

Yoko's still waffling on about her love-hate relationship with Britain when an elderly gent in a leather trilby and two-tone suit shuffles on. This is Ornette Coleman, the legend who played on Ono's 1969 debut, and is curating the Meltdown festival of which this show is part. To hear him play his white tenor sax on 1971's "Mind Train" is, even to someone as phobic of free jazz as I, electrifying, and no less so because his instrument is, throughout, a semitone sharp.

The red silk banner hanging above the stage of the Blackwood Miners' Institute bears the motto "Forward to a Socialist Britain and World Peace". Both those dreams seem further away in 2009 than they did a quarter of a century ago. The miners' strike was a formative experience for anyone who witnessed it. Growing up 25 miles from Blackwood, I remember NUM collection buckets being shaken in my town. For a while, it genuinely felt that revolution was in the air. Billy Bragg understood. "I was a miner ..." were the first words most people heard him sing, channelling an everyman who voted "not for the iron fist, but for the helping hand" on the moving and hymnal "Between the Wars" (a "Jerusalem" for comprehensive kids).

At the end of a Welsh tour to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the strike, he's back to "reconnect with the spirit of collective action" in the place where the strike was strongest. Bragg is preceded by locally based poet and playwright Patrick Jones (elder brother of Nicky Wire), a passionate and often hilarious performer who takes on bigotry, environmental destruction and organised religion.

The headliner rattles through Eighties favourites ("A Lover Sings", "Sexuality", a singalong finale of "A New England"), Dylan and Carpenters covers, Woody Guthrie songs, and spins stories about being mortified to discover George Osborne is a fan, and generally stakes a claim for his place as an Old England Springsteen. At least three times, Bragg brings absolute shivers. One is "Between the Wars" itself. Another is "Levi Stubbs' Tears", his heartbreaking mini-drama. The third is "Which Side Are You On?", his apposite adaptation of the 1930s American folk standard, with the stark stanza "It's hard to explain to a crying child/Why her daddy can't go back/So the family suffer, but it hurts me more/ To hear a scab say 'Sod you, Jack.'"

In a week when election results improbably turned Wales blue, Bragg and Jones are doing their part to eradicate apathy. But for now, Blackwood – like the rest of the country – is still waiting for the great leap forward.

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect